Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Macau Trip Report - 2013

Once a year I take a crazy trip with my old Army buddies. We are in the "life is short - better travel now" phase of our lives. 2 years ago it was kayaking in Canada. Last year was hang gliding in Rio. This year was chasing Komodo dragons in Bali.

We first flew into Singapore. What a clean, almost sterile, city. Great golf and great sight-seeing with an amazing $1 billion garden right outside the Sands hotel where we were staying. What a contrast to Bali, which was a paradise, although the touristy areas were pretty dirty. We joked that if the same level of filth was seen in Singapore, someone would have been shot.

We finished the trip in Hong Kong. Now that's a great city. It's a shoppers paradise. Every name brand you can think of, and many you have never heard. We stayed at the Peninsula Hotel, home of the 14 famous bespoke green Rolls Royce's. I was hoping to get a ride, but it never materialized.

The boys weren't interested, but I could not turn down a chance to get to Macau, especially since I was that close. I left the hotel at 3 pm. After negotiating the taxi and ferry system (bring your passport!), I was on a one hour jet boat to Macau. The biggest poker room is at the Wynn. I got there at 6 pm and the lists were long. Still, I was seated at the lowest no limit game by 7 pm. Their lowest is 50/100 HKD (Hong Kong dollars) and there highest is 300/600. After the exchange rates, that's the equivalent of 7/14 to 40/80. In other words, their lowest game is bigger than my regular 2/5 NL game.

I found the play very conservative. The only re-raises that didn't come from me were people holding aces or kings. I didn't see a single bluff. I made 2 good plays and 3 bad plays before I had to go. I was down a little, but I really feel like this is a very beatable game. Much more so than in the California poker rooms, which are also quite beatable.

Only one poker celeb I recognized - I think he goes by viffer, but I may have that wrong. Bunch of neck tattoos. I recognized him from Poker After Dark as well as HSP.

To those that may inquire, I did not get a massage in Macau. I've heard great things, but travelers's gut kept me far away.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts on Boston

I know, two blog posts in less than 24 hours after no posts in 4 months. Forgive me - it's been a crazy 24 hours.

There are many others who have spoken their mind on the events in Boston - Michael and Brad come to mind. Between their blogs and Facebook posts, you can better experience the mental machinations of writers who do this better than me. Even Brad's "No..." on Facebook was more profound than anything I could say. But I will say this, my experience in Iraq taught me that security is an illusion. It's a good illusion because it helps us live our lives out from under the covers, but it's true. Anything can and will sneak up and get you.

I have a rental property. My tenant, a lovely lady in her 50s, died in her sleep last night from a ruptured aneurysm. Just one more example that if they don't get you from the outside, they might get you from the inside.

I always take moments like these to hug loved ones and make sure I'm appreciative for the things I have. You should, too. I am a little perturbed at the folks on Facebook and Twitter who chastise people for re-posting or re-tweeting graphic images. "You should have warned us!" they cry. Well, guess what? The folks on the ground didn't get any warning and it's fair to say they suffered far worse than your psyche. See the images. Internalize them. Remember them. I want you see. You NEED to see. Just don't let them keep you getting out from under the covers.

Busted

"Pardon me, sir. Can we have a word with you?"

It's a little intimidating when you're playing poker and hear these words. I'm sitting in the 4 seat and I slowly turn around, certain that the deep voices are not referring to me. Oh shit. There are 3 large guys in security uniforms standing right behind me and they are most certainly looking right at me.

Um, can I play my blind?

No, we'd rather like to talk to you now.

Now I'm in crisis mode.  What did I do... um... recently? I know I got pissed when some guy named Brian pulled my hand out of the muck and exposed my cards after I folded. I was pissed and it got a little heated. I may have accidentally knocked my chair over while standing up to protest. I may have raised my voice just a little bit much, and perhaps suggested we settle this outside. Not in so many words, mind you, but it could have been inferred. Did it really take 3 security guys to tell me I was no longer welcome in the casino? Surely they would have done that the night of the incident, right?

***

I'm a nice guy. If you read this blog, you probably know me. You know I'm a nice guy. I try to be nice to people. I enjoy tipping dealers because it always brings a smile and a thank you. It makes them feel good and it makes me feel good. That's how I'm wired. When I complained about the guy that pulled my hand out of the muck, another player that I didn't recognize branded me a trouble maker. Several other players jumped to my defense and said, no, not only does he usually not complain, but he's correct that this other guy was way out of line. He has a right to be pissed and it's amazing he's in control at all. Okay, maybe that last part was an exaggeration, but they were thinking it, dammit.

***

So, I stand up and face the security team. Mike, I know he's Mike by his official name tag, "Mike. Head of Security," is holding several pieces of 8 1/2 x 11 paper, one of which has a picture. MY picture. It's my smiling face and my jacket and my hat. And it's on a piece of paper that has my name and a note that says, "DETAIN ON SITE."

Mike says, "Do you know why we are questioning you?" Fuck. This feels WAY worse than the speeding ticket I just got. I've gotten speeding tickets before, which really is my only run in with the law. I know how to act in those situations. Always be respectful. Call people Sir and Ma'am. Hope that they let you off. These boys had no intention of letting me off.

***

When I was about 12 years old, I stole a bottle of juice from the local store. It was thrilling, but my conscious got the better of me. After asking my dad 3 different ways if he ever stole anything, he put 2 and 2 together and confronted me. "What did you steal?!" I broke down immediately. "How did you know?" I sobbed. I stole a juice! I'm so sorry. He made me go apologize and pay for the juice. I also had to clean up the parking lot of the grocery store every day for a week. It was a great lesson and it marked the beginning and end of my career as a thief. Or so I thought.

***

Sir, you owe us $500.

Um, huh?

We know what you did, and now you owe us money. $500.  Now, please.

***

There are many things that go through your mind at a time like this. Can it be true? Did I sit down at someone else's stack? Did I bluff the wrong person? Was I angle shooting? While I'm trying desperately to sort this out, Mike says, "Marlene overpaid you and you just took the money. You didn't know?"

***

It's 2004 and I'm just starting to play live. After a big night playing 10/20, I was coloring up and the chip runner gave me $500 more than I paid for. I knew I shouldn't have gotten the extra $500, but what are you supposed to do when someone dumps a load of cash in your lap? I didn't really know what to do, so I did nothing. It was wrong and I felt guilty about it, but that's what happened. When the floor came over an hour later and asked for the money back, I didn't put up a fuss.

But now, I truly had no recollection of taking more than I should.

***

Here's the problem, if you can call it that. I figured out what was wrong with my game. Seriously. Long time followers of this blog know all about my epic losses. Well, I turned it around in a big way. So big that I truly wasn't paying attention when I was coloring up. It was an innocent mistake. I was up over $2K and asked for 2 grey chips, the $1000 chips at the Bay 101 casino. I had a mix of $100 chips and $5 chips and after racking up, they paid me for an extra rack and I didn't even notice. I watched the whole thing on video in the security office and it was obvious. I happily admitting the error and paid the overage immediately. Good thing, too. Marlene was going to be suspended if I didn't, and I would have felt terrible. After the whole sordid affair, I found Marlene and apologized profusely. I tipped her generously and campaigned (successfully) to cancel her suspension.

Still, I'm a little shaken by the whole thing. How is it possibly that I didn't notice an extra $500? Have I become so jaded to the dollar amount that it didn't matter? Is that a good thing? Is that related to why I'm winning lately?

Who knows? All I know it that I can't sleep tonight (it's 1:40 AM as I type this), and I can't stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The End of the World - 2012

I wrote an email with no "to" address. It was a will of sorts. I did it before I left for Mastodon 2012 based on the non-zero chance that I might die during the festivities. I think the email is still in my draft folder, actually. I survived, making the necessity of the will somewhat less important, but I won't delete it just yet. You see, the world is ending on Friday.

Of course, this begs the question, why write a will that no one will read? If we're all dead, then it's kind of a moot point, innit? Well, technically that's true. Unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. You're all not real. You're just a construct in my mind. The only real thing in this universe is my existence and my perception. I know, this comes as a bit of a shock, especially since you are under the (mistaken) impression that you are, in fact, real. You're not, but you shouldn't let that get you down. Being something created especially for me is actually an honor. Of the billions and billions of people on this planet, only a few actually got to know me. If you are reading this, you are one of those creations. Congratulations! I'm sure you can take some satisfaction in the astronomical odds of being one of the lucky few.

Since you are all just figments of my imagination, you are in for a bit of a shock. Just as there was a non-zero chance of me dying at Mastodon, there is also a non-zero chance of me dying on Friday. In fact, this whole Mayan thing may have be pre-ordained before I was "born" in order to signal the end of this simulation. You see, if I die, existence is no more. "End simulation," to quote Star Trek. Don't fear the end though, you all played a big part in my game.

It's not a traditional game with winners and losers, of course. In the future I come from, I imagine that the only reality is one of the mind. Resources have been depleted. Famine and pestilence got rid of the rest. The lucky few were able to take advantage of the superb technology to allow some (like me) to go back in history and live at a time where true happiness could be attained. That time was the years 1967 through 2012. "But I remember time before 1967!" some of you might be saying. Sorry, you only think you remember that. Those memories were implanted in your program to give you more realism - for me, of course.

So it comes down to this. If I pass this Friday, thank you all for playing your parts and staying in character. If all goes well, I'm going to ask the mods to send me right back to 1967. I'd like to do this one more time. I wouldn't change a thing. Well, that's not entirely true. I'd like the chance to tell Maggie M that walking behind her up the stairs in 1982 and staring at her Jordache jeans was a spiritual moment for me. I wonder how that would alter my timeline...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WSOP - Part Deux

See here for Part 1.

Mizrachi needs no intro for most readers of this blog. He's phenomenal. He's also known for being really patient. That's not what I saw. He was in almost every pot when he first sat down and would raise or reraise aggressively. This included 4 or 5 betting pre-flop in multi-way pots. I was unfamiliar with this strategy in LHE, but it seemed to be working for him, often winning without a showdown.

Apparently I was the only one who noticed. Most everyone else got out of his way. I vowed that the next time he raised I would three bet. It didn't take long. He 4 bet, even though there was no one else to get out of the pot, so I 5-bet capped his ass. He lead the flop and I raised. He reraised and I capped. He lead the turn and I raised. He reraised, and at this point, I decided to look back at my cards. I only had AK and it was an uncoordinated low card board. Shit. I just called. He checked the river and I checked behind, proudly showing my AK. He took one look back at his cards and mucked.

I would do this to him 2 more times within the hour, both times winning at show down. After that, we never hooked horns again. I'd like to think it's because he was intimidated, but I know better.

At each break, I kept thinking, wow, I made the next break. I made dinner. I made level 5. Suddenly it was after 1 am and I knew we would end the day within the hour. Time for power poker. Everyone else was shutting down, so I took that as a time to raise more aggressively. It worked for a bit and I chipped up to about 22,000, before running into a guy with an acutal hand on the last deal of the night. I finished day 1 with 20,700 and felt like king of the world.

Then I get a tweet from Otis who tells me congrats, you are the chip leader at your day 2 table. 2nd place it Alan Goering. Well, I suppose I shouldn't too surprised. Most of the amateurs were falling away, leaving a lot of known pros.

Alan's style on day 2 was the exact opposite of The Grinder. He rarely played pots and often check-called. If checked into, he would usually bet and most often had the goods. Humberto "The Chark" Brenes sat down in the 1 seat (Alan was in 2 and I was in 6) and before long, told me that I raise too much. I took a few pots off him before I ran my AK into his AA on a King-high board. Before that, my chip stack got up to about 41,000.

Alas, then things started going south. Nothing memorable, just a lot of draws getting there against my made hands. Could I have played better? Sure. I got overaggressive with Ks-8s when I flopped a huge draw and had to give it up on the river. Same with 88 and 33, when I got counterfitted on the turn and river. Bah.

I finished 91st, 9 away from the money.

It was an incredible experience, one I hope to duplicate in the future. I will likely avoid NL. LHE was great, but I really want to play Razz. I hear there's a Brat out there who thinks he better than me.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

WSOP 2012 Trip Report

I made no promises that I would blog again, but I was asked nicely, and I do have some thoughts about my experience. I signed up and played Event #13, the $1500 Limit Hold 'em event starting Tuesday June 5th. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

Stayed at the Hard Rock in the HRH tower. Tried Pauly's trick (fold up a $20 and hand it to the clerk while asking about upgrades). It turns out the clerk was actually the hotel manager who refused the dough, but still gave me a sweet suite.

My room number was 10826. After going to the 10th floor twice, I was unable to find my room. While trying to convince the hot, tattooed staff member that I'm actually a pretty smart guy, she patiently explained that the "1" was the tower number and the "08" was the floor. The room was 26. Of course, how silly of me! At least she could have said that everyone makes the same mistake, but no. She left me feeling  like I was the only moron who couldn't figure this out. But she was hot.

Everyone at the Hard Rock, staff and guests, have tattoos. I was severely under-tatted.

I walked past a craps table with an obvious 1st time shooter (switching hands, pulling the dice totally off the table while talking, etc), so of course I turned $200 into $600 on a 45 minuted roll. Should have been pressing harder. Yes, he hit every point. No, I didn't have a fire bet.

Dropped the cash for the buy-in. They seemed surprised to see cash. Apparently many folks sign up with chips.

Went straight to play some high-end limit. There were about 30 tables of 20/40 and higher and ALL were filled, many with a waiting list. So I played 2/5 NL, a game I do not feel great about, while I waited. Within 20 minutes, I was up about $1800 and actually WALKED AWAY.

I got to bed early so I could be rested for the event. In other words, before 1 am.

I was up at 6.

Decent breakfast at Lucky 24/7 in the hotel. Then off to the Rio for some cash games. You know, in order to relax. Broke even just before my event, which started at 5 pm.

Tons of Twitter messages were a HUGE inspiration. Cards were in the air on time and I began chipping up right away. I got used to folding 20 to 30 hands in a row and then getting very aggressive when I had cards. I won several pots with AK over AQ or AJ where we both had just Ace high. Saw the river more often than not, so you needed the cards.

Unfortunately, things started going south when several draws got there against me in really big pots. I never slow played or check raised up to this point. I was just playing ABC poker. It was working, too. I probably should have shifted gears sooner, but before I knew it, I was down to 150 chips (we started with 4500). I got all in with AQ. 6-way action insured my demise. But wait... I win the main pot? Really? Now I've got 900 and get it all in on the very next hand with KK. That holds, too? Triple up! Suddenly I am back in this thing and feeling pretty good.

And then Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi sits down three seats to my right.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

When we left off..

We were just discussing a great poker game and peeing Marines. A few things have happened since then that may have been blog-worthy, but I got it out of my system with Facebook and Twitter. As such, this medium is neglected and probably needs to die. That said, I have an occasional need for a more creative outlet in long form.

Today I drove out and back to Yosemite. Living in California certainly has it's upside and this is one of them. I highly recommend the pics I put on Facebook. They sum it up far better than anything I could write here. I was being pulled in several different directions this weekend, but a day away from my smart phone, facebook, twitter, WWF and mostly IMs was just what I needed. My kids think I'm cool. That's all I need.

That said, since this is a poker blog, I need advice. I've been threatening to play the WSOP for years, but this is the year I'm going. I will certainly play the Razz event. Should I also try the LHE event a few days before? Is the LHE event starting the day after out of the question? Since I've never played any WSOP event, multi-tabling is probably not in my best interest.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Two Unrelated Things - Poker and Peeing Marines

This should probably be two posts, but I rarely blog anymore and both are on my mind. I'll start with the philosophy stuff, because you probably won't read it if I wrote about the awesome poker game first.


So, what should be done with our wayward Marines who peed on dead Taliban?


I will first point you to my Vaclav Havel post talking about systems. This is a system issue. Notice, I didn't say system failure. Why? Because soldiers have been desecrating the bodies of their enemies since the beginning of time. It wasn't too long ago that rape and pillage were considered the spoils of war. Commanders would select the best wenches for themselves and leave the rest to the foot soldiers. The capable enemy became slaves. The injured, infirmed and elderly were shot. Bodies were decapitated and heads were placed on signposts as a warning. But we don't do that anymore. Why? Mostly because of two things. First, we are no longer allowed to defeat our enemies. We eliminate a few in power and then pay billions to the future warlords. This leaves enough of them to become offended when the desecration is broadcast on CNN, leading to point two, which is that this treatment actually emboldens the enemy and becomes an effective recruiting tool.

So what, you might ask, should happen to those poor Marines who were victims of the system that forced them to dehumanize the enemy in order to turn them into cold-blooded killers so they might do what our nation asked of them? Simple. Each peeing Marine should be sentenced to 10 years hard labor and their immediate leader should be put to death. Publicly. Immediately.

You might think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Just because they were doing what soldiers have done for eons, doesn't mean you shouldn't make an example of them. The damage has been done. This kind of example would set the right tone and prevent future nonsense, at least for a while.

***

The Ultimate Poker Game

My regular game is better than yours. Why? For hands like this:

The game is 2/5 NL with a forced $10 live straddle. It's still early and most players have between $300 and $1000 behind. I open UTG for $25 with AK and get called in 4 places. The flop:

Q-Q-2

I check. UTG +1 bets $25 and gets called in every position before it gets to me. I fold. Surely someone has the queen, right? The turn:

Q

UTG +1 bets $55. One fold and then it gets to doc. Doc is another physician with a wider range than me, if you can believe that. He got stuck a grand early because he got stacked twice in the first two hands (never having higher than a 9), but worked his way back to about $800. He smooth calls. The button, who started the hand with about $700, now wakes up and raises to $200. UTG +1 shows me his pocket kings and mucks (duh). Doc doesn't even tank and goes ALL IN! Button now tanks and says, "Doc, show me the 2." Without missing a beat, Doc flashes a 2 and the button snap-calls with pocket 5s.

Doc then shows his Q-2 for the flopped full house and turned quads.

Why, you might ask, would the button call there? He played the hand perfectly. The raise was excellent. A re-raise could only mean one thing. No one here, especially Doc, is capable of making the kind of play to represent a queen here without having the goods. Yet he called. Of course he called!

Because it's the greatest poker game ever.